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Dignity - The Lost Soft Skill

Dignity is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically. 

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The preservation of a person’s dignity is a lost skill on modern day methods of management.     It’s a selfless act, it gets no credit, isn’t seen and doesn’t benefit your digital profile. This lost skill is one that is so desperately needed in our workforce as it puts the humanity back into our lives.   Its timeless, and not a phase that comes and goes like many modern workplace fads. It’s one of the healers of mental illness, depression and hopelessness. It’s the backbone of loyalty and commitment to a company and it’s culture.  It’s been forgotten and we need to bring it back!

One of the reasons that I’ve never really liked Human Resources personnel is that many are so clinical in their approach and have lost the insight of a human beings’ feelings.    It’s simple really, child’s play and is all about what we tell our children, ‘be nice, be kind regardless of how someone treats you’. Its for this reason I felt that maybe I could make a difference and move Human Resources from the ‘superintendent of personnel’ to ‘human connections management’.

In my early days of learning my own skills, (and making plenty of blunders along the way) it was my lessons in the Japanese business culture that really touched a part of me.    They are the masters of preserving dignity. I watched them terminate senior employees but preserve their reputation and self-respect so that the transition of leaving a company was a positive and momentous occasion.   On the other hand, if a young person in Japan wants to really hurt their parents, they would make a public spectacle of themselves by dressing gothic-like and with the sole purpose of trying to embarrass their parents. The Japanese understand the importance of dignity and self-respect in all aspect of their lives. 

Here are a few things that stand out to me when I think about the preserving of dignity:


  • Don’t be a manager that enjoys the element of surprising someone with bad news.    Softening the blow to someone is one of the most important aspects of maintaining dignity.  Change is difficult at the best of times. Every employee must go home to their family and tell them news from work.     Keep the dinner table in mind.


  • Is there anyway that you can provide a few options to an employee rather than an ultimatum?   For instance, if it is about their poor performance, (outside of asking them to improve) can you not provide time for them to come back to you with some thoughts, help them with some alternative career choices, have a special project that assists with their transition out of the business.    You don’t have to cut people off at the knees.    


  • We must endeavour to educate our managers on more than just getting results.  It’s the ‘how’ we get the results that is more important. Sometimes it’s as simple as ensuring our managers follow up with a phone call after a person has left the company to simply see how they are going.   Perhaps we should be writing this step into a termination process for our management teams. It might change how a manager goes about terminating an employee in the first instance if they know that in a day or two, they are going to be calling them.   


  • So, I hear you say, he stole money from the company, and he hit the cleaner.  Yes, there is always the employee that takes you a bit beyond the edge. I still wonder why any person behaves in this manner and what is driving them in their personal life that results in events like this in the workplace.    I’m not condoning theft, fraud or assault, but we can still choose to treat a person with the face of humanity. They probably need it more than ever. There is a time in every person’s life that they deserve a little bit of grace.  I know I’ve needed it.

Throughout my career I’ve been passionate about endeavouring to preserve a person’s feelings, their dignity and humanity.  At times, some have not deserved it. On occasions, I’ve been yelled at, threatened, and even had a cup of coffee thrown at me when I’ve had to let someone know that they are leaving a company.     Nevertheless, I tried to keep that value of dignity alive. It’s who we are as humans and so often is forgotten. The most inspirational leaders to me have been those that I’ve watched behind closed doors when there is no opportunity to improve their profile or get credit or acknowledgement, but instead they are the leaders that have reached down and touched someone’s life, just because it’s the right thing to do.    

The more you invest in people whether it directly benefits you or the company, the better hope for dignity making a comeback to the workplace.       

Employees are your best business asset!

Call us now on 0411 254 865 or email for an appointment at ahendy@hendyhr.com.au 

Leanne O'Sullivan